News and Events
Meet the Olympians
This summer, as thousands of people from around the world travel to London to watch or compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics, a number of Pepperdine athletes and coaches will face their toughest competition in the hopes of joining the ranks of Pepperdine's earlier, legendary medal winners. Some are returning competitors; others are international students who will represent their home countries at the games; and some are inspiring their U.S. National Teams to achieve victory as coaches. All go to the 2012 London Olympic Games with the support of the Pepperdine community, befitting University champions.
The Pepperdine Alumni Association will celebrate the Olympic games at the recently renovated Pepperdine London House Thursday, July 26, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. London time, paying tribute to Pepperdine Olympians past and present. Register here.
Meet the Olympians below in an exclusive early look at the article from the Summer 2012 issue of Pepperdine Magazine, as well as participants that qualified just as or after the magazine went to press. For a history of Pepperdine medal winners so far and for University updates throughout the London games, visit the magazine's website.
Sarah Attar: Track, Saudi Arabia
Junior Sarah Attar will have the honor of being one of the first two women ever to compete for Saudi Arabia at the Olympics. Attar has run both cross country and track for the Waves for the past two seasons. Read about Attar on the Pepperdine Athletics website.
Yakhouba Diawara: Basketball, France
Yakhouba Diawara played two seasons for the Waves (2003-04 and 2004-05) after transferring from Southern Idaho and will become the second Pepperdine product ever to compete in the sport of men's basketball at the Olympics, as the Waves' alum was named to France's national team. Read about Diawara on the Pepperdine Athletics website.
Miranda Ayim: Basketball, Canada
Former Wave Miranda Ayim and the Canadian Senior Women's National Team qualified for the 2012 London Olympics after winning a winner takes all game over Japan, 71-63, in Ankara, Turkey in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The berth marks the first time the Canadian women have been in the Olympics since 2000 in Sydney. Read about Ayim, who was featured in an article titled "Courtside Communication" in the Summer 2010 issue of Pepperdine Magazine, on the Pepperdine Athletics website.
Robert Lindstedt: Tennis, Sweden
Lindstedt ('98) is making his first Olympic appearance. He will compete in men's doubles and possibly mixed doubles. In his only season at Pepperdine after transferring from Fresno State, Lindstedt and partner Kelly Gullett reached the championship match of the 1998 NCAA men's doubles tournament. Lindstedt has reached the final at Wimbledon in men's tennis in each of the last three years and is ranked 10th in the world in doubles.
Sean Rooney: Volleyball, U.S.A.
Rooney ('05) is appearing in his second Olympics. He and the U.S. won a gold medal in 2008. Rooney was the 2005 AVCA National Player of the Year for Pepperdine and was a four-time All-American (three times on the first team). He won a national championship with the Waves in 2005.
Gary Sato: Assistant Coach Men's Volleyball, U.S.A.
Sato ('78) is serving as an assistant coach for the U.S. men's volleyball team for the third time. He was a coach on teams that won gold in 1988 and bronze in 1992.
Merrill Moses: Water Polo, U.S.A.
"I remember in 2008 when the torch was lit, it was like a fire was lit inside of me and I knew it was go time," remembers Merrill Moses ('99) of his first Olympic presence on the 2008 U.S. water polo team. "I can't wait for that feeling again. It's hard to describe, but it is all of your emotions and thoughts of all the hard work running through your body because you know you are about to perform on the biggest sports stage ever."
The goalkeeper will go back to the biggest international competition following months of intense training at six hours a day, five days a week, and with a record of stopping over 65 percent of shots—36 saves—during the qualifying 2011 Pan American Games. Winning the Gold Medal in October was "very satisfying," he says, in large part because Team USA was known as being the team to beat.
"Anytime you are a favored team, you must bring your best performance at every game because everyone wants to knock you out. So all of our hard work and preparation paid off and we remained focused in every game to qualify."
It was this same focus that helped him lead Pepperdine to the NCAA Championship back in 1997 and, in 1998, earned him 1st Team All-Conference and 2nd Team All-American honors at Pepperdine. He was also named Pepperdine's Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the 1997 NCAA Championships, an honor he says first helped him realize that he could play at the next level. Fourteen years later, the California native has built a professional resume that includes tallying up the highest number of saves in the 2006 Premier League Division I, being named the MVP of the 2010 USA Water Polo Men's National Championships with the New York Athletic Club, and playing for teams in Italy and Croatia following his Silver victory four years ago in Beijing. He led his teams—Sibenik, Croatia, and Nervi, Italy—to success and won the Yellow Cap award for being the most consistent player in the Croatian league.
Moses has been practicing his "Cockney slang" in preparation for London and is just waiting for the opening ceremony to relight his determination to win and bring home Olympic glory with his team. "You learn to love and rely on your teammates, because in water polo if you don't work as a team you will not get far," he explains. "I love that family bond that me and my teammates have."
Jesse Smith: Water Polo, U.S.A.
Born in Hawaii and raised on the peninsula of Coronado, California, just across the bay from San Diego, the water is a second home to Jesse Smith ('05), who will compete with Moses on the U.S. men's water polo team this summer after winning Silver in 2008. The 6'4" athlete, who plays the utility position, was also one of America's top scorers at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games before he had even graduated from Pepperdine, scoring nine goals total and two in his debut game against Croatia. He, too, went on to play professionally in Croatia, helping team Samir Barac win the Croatian Championship in 2007.
Though he took time out of his degree to compete in the 2004 games as an undergraduate, Smith managed to graduate in eight semesters and was named to the All-American team four times at the University. After graduating in the winter of 2005, he and his Pepperdine bride Brittany (nee Dye) ('05) moved to Europe, where he played for Ethnikos Pireus in Greece.
Smith currently plays professionally for Savona in Italy, and scored six goals during the 2011 Pan American Games— winning Team USA a Gold Medal and a qualifying win for this year's summer Olympics.
Roxanne Barker: Soccer, South Africa
Seaver College senior Roxanne Barker holds a unique place in the roster of Pepperdine Olympians this year, as the only current student on a qualifying team. The senior women's soccer star plays nationally as goalkeeper for South Africa, where she was born and where her grandfather Bryan Gilson played for the South African National Team in polo.
"This is the first women's South African team sport that has ever qualified for the Olympics," she says, noting how proud she is of her team. "It's amazing that a team of girls with so little resources was able to make it. They fought to qualify without much backing and now South Africa is pouring money into the program, and I think they deserve it."
Barker's career in soccer began in the first grade when her parents moved the family from South Africa to Irvine, California, and her new best friend insisted she play at recess. At first she hated "getting hit in the face" by the ball, but by high school she had developed her skills enough to become "The Most Valuable Goalie in the Sea View League" before choosing Pepperdine because of its soccer program.
"Honestly, soccer is a terrible and wonderful game! You can dominate a game, have the ball 90 percent of the time, and still lose. You have to work for every goal and stay focused the whole game, even when the ball is on the other side of the field," she explains. "But I love the challenge of soccer."
A few months after Barker committed to Pepperdine, her family moved back to South Africa, and she blossomed on the field where she received WCC All-Freshman honors in her freshman season. The biology major is the school's all-time leader in goals-against average and is a threetime All-WCC selection. "I feel like my life is just sort of beginning. And I'm excited to be in that Olympic atmosphere. I think it will be a very special experience," she says, reflecting on how far she has come as a Wave and the path to the London games.
While she has considered applying for U.S. citizenship in the past, with her family back in South Africa and women's sports just now making progress there, she is excited for the chance to make her home country proud. "Girls in South Africa play soccer for the love of the game and I see a lot of potential in this team. There is no country I'd rather represent than South Africa."
Marv Dunphy: Consultant Coach, Volleyball, U.S.A.
While Marv Dunphy ('74) is the longtime, beloved head coach of the Waves men's volleyball team, it is the U.S. women's team that will reap the benefits of his award-winning leadership this summer as he takes a turn as consultant coach to the team ranked No. 1 in the world by the International Volleyball Federation. He and head coach Hugh McCutcheon led the men's team to Gold in 2008—the team's third Gold Medal so far—and were asked to parlay their golden touch to the women's team this year. "We have developed a great friendship over the years. I'll be scouting the opposition and seeing ahead of the Olympics what we need to do, tactically, to defeat them. During the matches themselves, I'll be on a headset with Hugh on the end line, supplying real-time information of what I see. I'm basically a glorified spy," Dunphy jokes.
The duo makes a formidable coaching team, even through the most difficult of circumstances. During the 2008 games, tragedy struck when McCutcheon's wife and in-laws were attacked on a sightseeing stroll around Beijing. His father-in-law did not survive the knife attack, his mother-in-law was critically injured, and McCutcheon missed a few games to support his wife through the tragedy. Nonetheless, the team won Gold, thanks to both Dunphy's leadership through that period and the hard work and determination of the team and coaches to succeed amid tragedy.
Dunphy was inducted to the American Volleyball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame
in 2009, and in 2011 he was awarded the U.S. Olympic Achievement Award for his role in helping the 2008 team to Gold, a team that included prominent Pepperdine alumnus Sean Rooney ('05). In fact, since assuming his role as head coach of the Waves men's volleyball in 1977, 10 of his Pepperdine proteges have gone on to represent the U.S. National Team in the Olympics. With the women's team ranked No. 1 this year, Dunphy says he is energized by the "expectation for this team to do really well." He was similarly energized in 1988 when he coached the U.S. Men's Volleyball National Team. They were heavily favored to win Gold.
"And we did," he remembers. "It reminds me of Pepperdine—people expect us to be good and it's an honor to be held to that standard. We don't have a 'Super Bowl' of volleyball, instead we have the Olympic games, so it's an absolute honor to represent our country."
Terry Schroeder: Head Coach, Water Polo, U.S.A.
Terry Schroeder ('81) is perhaps Pepperdine's most prolific Olympian. As a highly regarded water polo player, he competed in three Olympic games—1984, 1988, and 1992—winning Silver twice. The 2012 games will mark his second turn as head coach of the U.S. National Team, before he returns to Pepperdine in January 2013 as head coach of the Waves team following a seven-year hiatus.
His first go at leading the national team actually began in 2005. At the time, the squad was under the radar and ranked ninth in the world. By the time Schroeder had coached them through the end of the Olympics, they had won Silver. As a Waves coach for 20 years, Schroeder saw the men's water polo team through numerous championships, including an NCAA national championship victory against local rival USC in 1997 that went down in Pepperdine history. The win earned Schroeder the 1997 National Coach of the Year award, and he was the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year in 1989, 1997, and 1998.
After graduating from Pepperdine— where he became and remains the University's all-time leading goal scorer—as a student-athlete with All-American honors, Schroeder played for the U.S. National Team for 16 years. Representing his country, he was the team's captain from 1983 to 1992 and won two of the eight Silver Medals awarded to Pepperdine alumni at previous Olympics, one in 1984 and a second in 1988. Schroeder was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2005, the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Pepperdine Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985.
Marcio Sicolo: Consultant and Trainer to U.S. Beach Volleyball Champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor
Coincidentally, the year that Pepperdine added women's sand volleyball to its athletic
roster is the same year that women's volleyball assistant coach Marcio Sicoli makes his U.S. debut at the Olympics as a consultant and trainer to reigning beach volleyball champions Kerri Walsh and Misty May- Treanor. Sicoli has been training the duo in the run-up to the games, in the hopes of helping them secure a third Olympic Gold victory.
The seasoned Olympic veterans partnered with Sicoli based on his Olympic experience
as assistant coach for his native Brazilian Olympic women's beach volleyball team from 2000 to 2004. The players from his home country earned a Silver Medal at the 2004 games in Athens.
Sicoli has been training with Walsh and May- Treanor since March 2011, on the heels of joining Pepperdine's coaching crew in 2008 and serving as head coach of AVP women's beach volleyball team members before that from 2005 to 2007. He is also a coach at the Beverly Hillsbased Sports Shack Volleyball Club and earned the Sports Shack Coach of the Year Award in 2007.